Monday, May 21, 2018
News Roundup

Actress Nia Vardalos will share Greek culture with Tarpon Springs

TARPON SPRINGS — There are three things every Greek young woman must do, actor Nia Vardalos lamented as Toula Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Marry Greek boys, make Greek babies and feed everyone.

Portokalos — the movie character in the semiautobiographical film — chose her own destiny despite her hilariously intrusive family. And in real life, Vardalos has carved out her own path as well.

On Saturday in Tarpon Springs, the Academy Award-nominated actress and screenwriter will speak on how she and her husband (who is Puerto Rican and Russian, not Greek) struggled with infertility and adopted a toddler with only 14 hours' notice. She also will sign copies of her book, Instant Mom.

"She has a way of connecting with people," said Demetra Tsavaris Lecourezos, who invited Vardalos to Tarpon Springs after she met her at a book signing in Fort Lauderdale. "To hear her talk about meeting her daughter and how that all unfolded, it was both light-hearted and emotional."

At the book signing, Lecourezos told Vardalos her own story about how, in her late 30s, she struggled with whether to adopt or attempt a high-risk pregnancy. She ended up giving birth to her now 8-year-old daughter, Katerina.

She later sent a letter to Vardalos referencing the conversation at the book-signing and inviting her to Tarpon Springs.

The event will be at 6 p.m. in the Spanos-Pappas Community Center at 348 N Pinellas Ave. The $60 tickets include a sit-down dinner, dancing, a signed copy of Vardalos' book, and, likely, an enthusiastic crowd eager to host Vardalos in Florida's own little Greece.

Vardalos fans can buy tickets through the Tarpon Springs Welcomes Nia Vardalos Facebook page or at the Given With Love gift store at 526 Athens St. in Tarpon Springs. Seating is limited. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Lecourezos declined to specify what kind of food will be served because she wants it to be a surprise. But, she added, the event is not being promoted as Greek. All kinds of people, especially those with a strong ethnic heritage, whether Greek, Jewish, Italian or Russian, identify with Vardalos, she said.

"We want to share her with everybody," Lecourezos said.

Even so, some Tarpon Springs Greeks say, they have a special fondness for Vardalos, not just because of her stardom and light-hearted commentary on the Greek community, but for her commitment to the cause of foster care and adoption.

Lecourezos elected to give proceeds from Saturday's event to the Children's Home, a Tampa nonprofit that offers family services, including foster care and adoption.

According to Children's Home CEO Irene Rickus, the money could help buy shoes, diapers, medicine or other things that kids need.

Georgia Post, who is Greek, said she adopted her two children when they were toddlers. But it breaks her heart to think about all the children who don't find homes.

"I know throughout the country, there are so many people who are looking for a home," Post said. "Tarpon is a sleepy town, but there's a lot of goodness here and I'm hoping some kind of connection will be made."

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 323-0353.

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